Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Strange Teachings from Hagee’s Cornerstone

In a recent post I made mention of John Hagee and his seriously misguided obsession with Israeli politics. The characterization of "misguided" stems not from the fact that he supports Israel, but that he does so (and insists his parishioners follow suite) based on faulty biblical exegesis.

There is more about Hagee's teaching to dislike. In this Wall Street Journal article on the practice of tithing, we read this:

Steve Sorensen, director of pastoral ministries at Cornerstone [Hagee's church], says the church requires its paid and volunteer leaders to tithe, and teaches new members to do so, although it doesn't make them show proof of income. "When you tithe, God makes promises to us, that he ... is not going to let anything bad or destructive come about," says Mr. Sorensen. For those who don't tithe, he says the Lord "is not obligated to do those things for you."

(Emphasis added.) It is an interesting teaching we have here, that by my own volition I can place God in position where he is obligated to do something nice for me. Why then I would even be in a position to exhibit mercy to God by relieving him of his obligations! This is heady stuff!

I am definitely of the camp that a legal requirement for tithing has gone the way of the prohibition against touching the furniture that a menstruating woman sat upon (Leviticus 15:19-30). But if you want to pick and choose which OT laws have been abrogated and which (the ones you happen to like) are still in effect you'll be in good company, I suppose.

Having said that, I will add that I am also in the camp that thinks tithing is a perfectly sensible guideline. The bottom line, however, is what we read in Paul's instruction to the Corinthians:

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor. 9:7)

We are, churches like Hagee's Cornerstone should note, commanded against giving under compulsion. Now if you, as an individual believer, have a problem about giving freely, I would suggest (a) that you don't give reluctantly and (b) you get into the Word and pray that God would help you become a cheerful giver.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Penal Substitutionary Atonement: it’s not about Justice

One doctrine that is under attack in liberal circles is the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA). What PSA teaches is that Christ was punished in our place. That is, upon the cross, Christ actually received our due punishment. PSA, fully developed during the Reformation, doesn't replace but rather incorporates older views that Christ was victorious on the cross—victorious over sin and Satan—by adding the concept of how God's wrath against the elect was fully satisfied. The clarification was that this satisfaction was not as a reward, if you will, for Christ's victory over sin and Satan—but God's satisfaction actually required the suffering Christ endured for the sins of the world.

This view of the Atonement forms a pleasing symmetry with the Reformed view of justification—namely that we are justified before God by an alien righteousness, that of Jesus. So we have a two-way imputation. Our sins are imputed to Christ, while his righteousness is imputed to us. That's a pretty good deal, and if you haven't yet taken advantage of it, I suggest you do.

The scriptural support for PSA is impressive. From Isaiah's Messianic prophecy:

But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. (Is. 53:5)

to Paul's letter to the Romans

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Rom. 3:23-25)

to many other passages. The message seems clear that Christ received actual punishment on the cross. Since he didn't deserve it, it follows that it was punishment due to someone else (us.) And since he paid it, we won't, lest we accuse God of double billing.

The liberal attacks against PSA, at least the more ridiculous ones, follow the formula that most liberal attacks take, the if I were God, I wouldn't do that, therefore God wouldn't do that line of reasoning. The expression of this formula is typically found in liberal insistency that conservatives spend way too much time on the ideas of sin and wrath and not enough time on the nice passages about love and forgiveness. The most notorious recent "in the family" criticism of the PSA is from Steve Chalke, who, in his book The Lost Message of Jesus (Zondervan 2003) famously characterized it as "Cosmic Child Abuse."

Recently I read a reasoned discussion against PSA from Henry Neufeld.

Neufeld argues that God's love and forgiveness, not the PSA, are central to the gospel. I really have nothing to say about that, because I don't have a clear understanding of what is meant by "central." God has love. God forgives. The Atonement happened. It is not that there is something central to the gospel, but instead the gospel in central to all.

But let's examine some specific criticisms. Neufeld, in arguing how PSA proponents address the greatest commandment, writes:

Well, we have at the foundation of PSA God's essential
revulsion at human sin, and even his inability to look at it.

Actually, we have no such thing. This is taken from a very bad Sunday school lesson. There is nothing quite so easy to demonstrate in scripture as God's ability to look at sin with ease. In the garden, after the fall, it was Adam and Eve in apparent distress, not God. In Job, we have Satan involved in a heavenly conference with God, and God doesn't seem to be covering his eyes or in any obvious pain, even in the presence of the very Prince of Lies. If anything, we can demonstrate that it is human sin that abhors and runs from God, not the other way around. For example, recall the famous unclean-lips reaction of Isaiah.

Neufeld then applies this mistake concerning God's supposed weakness in the face of sin:

So how does this evoke my love for God? I am to love God with my whole heart, mind, and soul, even while he loathes me, a sinner, with everything in his being.

Friends, there is not any lesson from the PSA that would even remotely imply that God loathes Neufeld, who is a believer. On the contrary the lesson is that Neufeld is a believer because God loves him (He first loved you), he doesn't loathe him. We are not taught Jacob I loathed, but Esau I loathed even more, but Jacob I loved. Is there any indication that God loathed David, or Abraham, or Paul? Of course there is none whatsoever. The fact that it is so obvious from scripture that God loves believers should alert the reader that Neufeld is misrepresenting the PSA—because there could never be a doctrine that could achieve any traction at all if it was based on God loathing believers.

Neufeld's entire post, in my opinion, can be summarized by saying the PSA is bad because if focuses on God's loathsomeness for man. But that is simply wrong—the PSA focuses on God's love for believers. Even if the PSA is wrong, it seems a little foolish to deny that as a doctrine it in fact emphasizes God's love—otherwise you are left with no motivation for the suffering it supposes Christ endured. Did he endure suffering the punishment the PSA claims because he loathed mankind? It makes no sense whatsoever. Neufeld is not accurately representing the PSA.

He goes on to argue that another problem with the PSA is that it is too man centered. I suppose that's in the eyes of the beholder. It is man centered in Neufeld's view because it allows man to escape punishment. But the punishment escaped is hell—and here I presume that Neufeld also accepts that believers escape hell—so how "avoiding punishment implies man centeredness" is especially a problem for the PSA is not clear.

PSA proponents argue, correctly I would say, just the opposite. It is God centered in that it affirms that the only thing man can successfully contribute to his own salvation is his sins. Man is not good enough to bring anything meritorious; all must be supplied by God.

Reading between the lines, it seems to me that Neufeld is not so much against the PSA but against a different Reformed doctrine: Total Depravity. There is where we indeed find the language of loathsomeness and wrath that Neufeld so dislikes (and who can blame him.) But Total Depravity reflects God's view of the unregenerate, not his view of believers. And the Atonement reflects God's plan for those he loves, not those he hates. The two doctrines do not overlap much, but Neufeld, it seems to me, conflates them.

As for love and forgiveness, wonderful things to be sure, the plain truth is the only group that can self-consistently claim the centrality, to use Neufeld's language, of God's love and forgiveness are the Universalists. Because if you allow that some are lost—some are not forgiven, and clearly you must unless you just want to toss out the whole bible, then you certainly must conclude God's love and his forgiveness cannot be ultimate. They don't trump other attributes of God. If they did then all would be saved. That would be fine by me, but it doesn't reflect scriptural teaching.

However, of those attributes of God that might trump his love and forgiveness, God's justice isn't one of them. God's love and forgiveness do take precedence over his justice—because some receive mercy rather than justice.

It seems to me that the confusion of PSA arises because both sides accept that the pro-PSA side should be argued in terms to God's Justice. And once the pro-PSA side argues that the PSA is true because God demands justice, the anti-PSA side argues, rather convincingly, that the PSA represents a rather perverse form of justice.

Perhaps the problem is we focus on the wrong attribute of God. It is not God's justice—which we know he routinely sets aside in the form of mercy—that is relevant. It is a more mysterious attribute: God's holiness.

It is God's holiness that trumps all. It is God's holiness that is ultimate. And it is his most mysterious attribute.

One can, perhaps by this "trick," sweep the mysteries of the Atonement into a deeper mystery, God's holiness. It may be sleight of hand, but it succeeds in removing from the Atonement the tension that develops when you claim that it is all about the fact that God's justice demands punishment.

Why, for example, does the bible tell us that there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood, and that the blood of animals or fallen man will not suffice? I really cannot comprehend why God cannot simply forgive everyone (he clearly relaxes justice by giving mercy to some—why not all?) And why must blood be shed? Why not some other form of punishment?

The answer, I believe, is found in God's incomprehensible holiness. The reconciliation that must be made is not because God demands justice, and not because God cannot bear the presence of sin, but rather because in his holiness it pleases God to spend eternity in the presence of a people whom he has cleansed. This cleansing, for some reason we cannot hope to fathom, requires the shedding of perfect blood. It is no use to characterize it as barbaric—-it is simply the way it is, and on this side of eternity believers might as well just accept the fact.

Another form of liberalism, fundamentalism, takes its "liberties" with the bible this way: Well God didn't actually get around to putting that—typically some prohibition—in the bible, but I'm sure he would have if he had thought about it a little more, so we'll add it for him.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tenure Tack Physics Position

My university has a tenure track opening for next year. Gotta move fast! The announcement, reproduced below, is found here.

For some reason the ad fails to mention that CNU is next door (well, five minutes away) from one of the world's premier nuclear physics laboratories, the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. In other words, this is nuclear physics heaven.


The Department of Physics, Computer Science and Engineering at Christopher Newport University anticipates an opening for a tenure track position at the Assistant Professor level in Physics available for Fall 2008. Salary is competitive. We are seeking teacher-scholars who are committed to undergraduate education in the context of liberal learning, who want to engage students in creative intellectual challenges, and who will be active in research and service to the University and community. Our exemplary group of faculty integrates high quality teaching and significant research involving undergraduates and supports a master’s program in applied physics and computer science.

For this position, research in physics education, high-energy nuclear physics, or sensors and instrumentation is preferred. In addition, the successful candidate will be expected to teach introductory physics classes and develop courses for the University’s first year seminar or other courses for the general student population in the Liberal Learning Core. Effective oral and written communication skills are required. The ability to teach entry level Computer Science (Java) or Electronics courses is a plus. A Ph.D. in Physics by August 1, 2008, is required for appointment to a tenure-track position at the rank of assistant professor.

The Department of Physics, Computer Science and Engineering has twenty physicists, computer scientists, and engineers working in a collegial atmosphere. The Department has a variety of laboratories in support of both teaching and research in complex/high speed digital systems, VLSI, parallel processing, communications, information science, lasers and photonics, sensor development, and multimedia graphics, as well as the recently created CNU Institute for Science Education (CISE).

Christopher Newport University, a vibrant, selective, state-supported liberal arts and sciences university of 4,800 students, is located on the Virginia Peninsula between Williamsburg and Virginia Beach. CNU's hallmark is outstanding teaching with a strong commitment to undergraduate education and the liberal studies core; the university will soon seek to shelter a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. The Fall 2007 freshman class of more than 1,200 students was selected from over 7,000 applicants and has an average SAT of about 1171. For further information on CNU, please visit our web site at Successful candidates will be committed to effective and creative undergraduate teaching and to a program of scholarly activity having the potential to enrich the intellectual lives of the University's students. Successful candidates will be able to create and deliver rigorous courses and will be able to effectively assist students in meeting high academic expectations. Experience as a student or faculty member at a liberal arts and sciences institution is desirable.

Applicants should submit a vita; a letter describing academic preparation, teaching experience if any, and area(s) of research interest; a statement of teaching philosophy; and three letters of reference to:

Director of Equal Opportunity and Faculty Recruitment
Physics Faculty Search
Search #8032
Christopher Newport University
1 University Place
Newport News, VA 23606-2998

Review of applications will begin on December 14, 2007.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Here, spend this!

I sold a book today! My Amazon ranking went from about 1.4 million to about 0.25 million (and dropping fast--the Amazon ranking scheme is demoralizing! And yes, I check almost daily.)

My publisher is Canadian. I remember the first royalty check was for something like seventy dollars. A few days after depositing it, I got a letter from the bank saying: "Oops, we didn't notice at first but that check was in funny-money Canadian dollars--it's only $64 in 'real money.'"

Things are different now--the deposit becomes bigger in American dollars. Our weak currency rocks!

Sorry Paul, it’s really like a drug

On Wes Elsberry’s blog, there is a fascinating transcript of John Buell’s testimony vis-à-vis the Dover case. I had never read nor heard about it before. Forget about the larger picture of the Dover trial and just read it with this line of thought. Buell is the President of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics. That is the outfit behind the publication of The Design of Life and Of Pandas and People. The latter, of course, was front stage at the Dover trial, and now, sadly, is probably best known for the fact that it has introduced the transitional fossil cdesign proponentsists into the vernacular. Sigh. Perhaps it is well and good that when Christians set out to deceive, we are not very competent. At least that’s something.

Anyway, Buell’s testimony, under cross examination, reveals this about FTE’s raison d'etre:

  • The FTE provides documentation to the IRS indicating that its primary exempt purpose is promoting and publishing textbooks presenting a Christian perspective.

  • That the FTE was incorporated with goals both religious and educational, and FTE seeks to make known the Christian gospel and understanding of the Bible.

  • The and FTE fundraising document states that “The Foundation for Thought and Ethics has been established to introduce Biblical perspective into the mainstream of America’s humanistic society, confronting the secular thought of modern man with the truth of God’s word.”

  • In a letter, written after the publishing Pandas, Buell wrote: “Our commitment is to see the monopoly of naturalistic curriculum in the schools broken. Presently school curriculum reflects a deep hostility to traditional Christian views and values, and indoctrinates students to this mindset through subtle but persuasive arguments.”

  • Buell, in trying to find a legitimate publishing house for Pandas, projects an explosive market for Pandas, should it come to pass that the Supreme Court would permit state mandated teaching of creationism in public schools. (The Supreme Court, by the way, did not.)

Now, I would say that while none of this is really my cup of tea, I have no problem, except a nebulous unsavory feeling, with FTE as described by the bulleted list above. I guess I would characterize FTE, as described above, as well-intentioned but misguided.

No, the problem with FTE and John Buell is that (read the testimony) he runs away, as fast as he can, from the description above. Why? So that he can pretend that Pandas and its proponents and its publishing are all about science, and nothing about religion. No sir, no religion here. The unintentional religious talk is blamed on, among other things, lawyers using standard boilerplate.

That, in a nutshell, is what I hate so much about the ID movement. The “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” tactic. It’s wrong because it necessarily presupposes that the world is stupid. And it is especially wrong because it disavows (though not sincerely—and I couldn’t say if that is better or worse) its noble goal of spreading the gospel.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Atheists Behaving Stupidly

I know that I often present a split personality in my blog posts. On theological matters I am conservative to the core. By that I mean that I both accept and defend both biblical infallibility and inerrancy. I am also about 95% Reformed by the measure of, say, the Westminster Confession. But when it comes to political matters I am lunatic fringe in the other direction—alienating some of my Christian friends. I am strongly in favor of separation of church and state (being a Baptist I recall how we invented it, having fared poorly under both Catholic and Presbyterian theocracies.) I don't get riled up by political issues. Does a state want to make gay marriage legal? I don't care, arguing that the New Testament gives us no charge to make Christian morals the law of the land—only the law of our hearts and the guidelines for our behavior. "In God We Trust" on the coinage? "One nation under God" in the Pledge? I could not care less—it's probably better to remove the lie. Evolution vs. ID? The former is science even though a) it doesn't have all the answers and b) it is certainly wrong in the sense that further research will result in some of its present teachings requiring modification, while the latter (ID) isn't—so teach the former in science class. War on Christmas? What do I care if a clerk in a store says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? We are not even told to celebrate Christ's birth—but even as we do, it does not call for a habitual echoing of a phrase—instead it should be about a solemn, thankful, and yes joyful remembrance, among Christians, of the first advent. The new atheists? While I am disappointed that their leaders present such infantile arguments—they are generally on the level of Ann Coulter articles—they are rabble-rousing and choir-preaching rather than informative, educational, challenging, thought-provoking or enlightening-- I generally applaud the fact that they are making atheism more acceptable. After all, they cannot detract from the number saved, so the only effect they can have, if any, is to make atheists come out of the closet. Since I see only negative potential of atheists claiming (from peer and societal pressure) to be Christians, I think this is ultimately a good thing.

Well, just to show that I am not always on the side of the bad guys, I will tell you that I think the atheists fighting the Utah Crosses are just as dumb as rocks.

I can sense, regardless of my position, the significance of debates on prayer in public schools, or ID in the science curriculum, or gay marriage, or abortion rights. These are substantive issues, and I can understand how many people on both sides want to dive into the debate and make a difference.

The Utah Cross case is not. The atheists fighting the crosses are engaged in nit-picking, and nit-picking tends to make the pickers look dumb and ultimately to hurt their cause.

The crosses are not an infringement of the separation of church and state. They are privately funded memorials for State Troopers who were killed in the line of duty. They were placed, with permission, on state land. They certainly do not establish any religion. They do not evangelize or proselytize. They are a modest acknowledgment of service, and therapeutic for the families left behind. A reasonable use of small patches of state land—not harmful to anyone except the hypersensitive but beneficial to some. And the cross, while a symbol of Christianity (though not of Mormonism, the religion of the majority of the troopers being memorialized), is also a universally recognized symbol of something else: someone died. More accurately, someone died and we want to take note of the fact. When I see a cross on the side of the road, I do not immediately think of Jesus, or the Crucifixion—I think: somebody died, right there, as the result of a car crash.

This is a stupid fight for the atheists. It is a waste of political capital. It is analogous to the anti-evolution stickers placed in text books—a fight over a non-substantive issue that isn't worth the consequence of seriously pissing people off. It's just a vulgar display of power. This doesn't matter, but we might just pull it off, so let's try. Dumb. Really dumb. In small matters it is always better to compromise, to take the high road, to be gracious, to be accommodating. The proponents of text book stickers didn't understand that, and their intellectual cousins, the atheists fighting the Utah crosses, don't either.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Design of a Bad Idea

The newly released ID book, The Design of Life, exemplifies everything that is wrong with ID.

  1. It claims to be science, but it is, as is all ID, entangled with religion. It would be much better if it admitted to be apologetics that was of a science bent. That is, ID should not falsely claim to be science when in fact it is religiously motivated—it should embrace that which it seeks to hide. There is, I'm sure we all recall, an apostolic lesson about not being embarrassed about the gospel.

  2. It is essentially a vanity publication, and is being released with great fanfare and a Benny-Hinn-like request for money. Science does not work that way. I hope Christians with money to give will consider giving it to charity or missions rather than to this exercise in egotism. (And they should not forget that one author is a member of a heretical cult, the Moonies. He should be evangelized, not applauded as a culture warrior.)

  3. The authors, who are leading ID proponents, make the sort of claims that should not accompany the release of scientific literature. William Dembski, yet again, declares victory by fiat: "The Design of Life shows why the better arguments and stronger evidence are now on the intelligent design side." And Jonathan Wells argues by philosophical assertion: "The Design of Life shows why it is no longer possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Darwinist." These guys simply never learn the lesson: ixnay the yperbole-hay, it's not helpful. Not at all. If you have a theory, as you claim, then do the research, and publish the results.

What's new here? Nothing. This is not science. It is, at best, a misguided missile in the culture wars. At worst, it is an attempt at a money making venture.

Still in flux--updates

After a month and a half in Virginia, we finally found a house. We close a week from today.

We had an offer and tentative agreement on one several weeks ago, but the sellers declined to make some small repairs that we requested, so we walked. Someone forgot to tell them it is a buyer's market. For rejecting our request to make repairs that would likely cost less than one of their mortgage payments, they lost the sale, and in the current housing economy the house could stay on the market for months. I think they interpreted our offer to close in two weeks (the house is empty) to mean that we were desperate to move in and would not walk.

Although staying longer in our month-to-month furnished townhouse was both annoying and expensive, we are much happier with the house that we found. The sellers of this house (it is also empty—almost every house we saw was empty because people are not selling in this market unless they are relocated) were very accommodating in agreeing to make the modest repairs resulting from the inspection.

I'll be a relatively close neighbor to one of my favorite Christian bloggers, Tom Gilson.

We are enjoying our new-old church—the one we attended before moving to New Hampshire in early 2002. However, we have not rejoined as of yet. The church is very small (about 40 people in the pews) and is searching for a pastor. I am waiting to see who they hire—although I am not at all certain that's the right thing to do.

Yesterday the interim pastor told a story of a friend of his in the construction business. This friend, it seems, likes to share the gospel on construction sites. After he does so, he has to go somewhere private, where he weeps. The cause of his weeping? He can't believe that God would use him as a messenger. That was a convicting message for me. I understand, intellectually, that we preach the gospel because we are commanded to and also because it is an unspeakable privilege. But, unlike this man, I never feel as if it is a privilege. I always feel more like it is an intellectual challenge. I would really like to feel the weight of what I am doing emotionally.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Anthony Flew? *Yawn*.

Can someone please explain the excited hubbub among my fellow Christians concerning Anthony Flew? The “famous atheist” converted, it is alleged, from atheism to deism.

Big deal. That’s like being traded from the 0-8 Miami Dolphins to the 0-8 St. Louis Rams.

Folks, deism (at least among those who, like Flew, have surely heard the gospel) is no better than atheism.

There is nothing here to celebrate. Nothing.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fellow Christian Physicists...

Here is an announcement for a faculty position at Union University in Tennessee.

Not many deserve a serious fisking more than

the regrettable Joel Osteen and his hideous prosperity gospel.

The always reliable Michael Horton is up to the task.

HT: Craig.

UPDATE: Tim Challies also posted an excellent (as always) review of Osteen's latest.

Flip sides of the same, dumb argument

The truth is simple. Bad people will co-opt whatever is convenient to rationalize their evil. End of story.

Beliefs have consequences. But the tragic results of a gross distortion or misapplication of a theory, ideology, or religion is far short of a proof of the culpability of the underlying beliefs. Sincere people believed, incorrectly, that Christianity endorsed slavery. That’s not an indictment of Christianity, it’s the fault of those who did not, willfully or ignorantly, get it right.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Profs: Tenure won’t matter!

Heretical nutcase Harold Camping is at it again. Camping, the president and co-founder of the Family Radio Network has, among other theological monstrosities, declared the end of the church age. Camping has sent notice that The Spirit has, by God, been formally withdrawn from all churches, save his own radio ministry. Camping’s model: leave your church, join a like-minded local group, and gather ‘round the radio on Sunday to listen to the sole remaining orthodox ministry—and more importantly the sole ministry still in God’s favor: Harold Camping’s.

He is also famous for predicting the end of the earth and the Second Coming in 1994. We can, I suspect, agree that his prediction was wrong.

But wait, there’s more! He has a relatively new book of which I wasn’t aware until I saw it discussed on Ed Brayton’s blog. The book, published in 2005, is: Time Has an End: A Biblical History of the World 11,013 B.C. – 2011 A.D.

The title is a spoiler. Camping admits (“oops, my bad!”) that he was wrong with his 1994 prediction. The real end will come in 2011! Camping writes:

About thirteen years ago, I wrote the book entitled 1994?. In it, I set forth a great amount of information derived solely from the Bible that suggested very strongly that there was a high likelihood that the world would come to an end sometime in the year A.D. 1994. Of course, the world did not end, and now, eleven years later, the world is still here.

However, during the past eleven years, God has been opening up to many who are studying the Bible considerable additional information which relates to the unfolding of God's salvation plan. When this additional information was integrated into the information which was set forth in the book 1994?, we knew that indeed the year 1994 was an extremely important year.

Moreover, we will discover that now, as we understand the Bible, it was the year 1994 in which Christ came a second time to begin the completion of the evangelization of His true people. We also have found considerable evidence that there is a high likelihood that the year 2011 will be the year in which the end will come. Nothing has changed in God's program. The Bible has simply made correction on our course toward truth!

Well, alrighty then!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic?

Well that depends, of course, on what you mean by anti-Semitic. The New Testament does not advocate any sort of mistreatment of Jews. However, it is quite clear that (normatively speaking) Jews, like anyone else, must come to know Christ to be saved. And nowhere does it demand a special view toward the modern state of Israel. If you are a Christian, base your support (or lack thereof) for Israel on your politics. Do not base it on erroneous interpretations of prophecy. Supporting Israel because she is the lone democracy in the region is defensible. Supporting Israel because her enemies tend to hate us is defensible. Supporting Israel because the bible tells us to is just plain wrong.

Many Christians believe that the founding of modern Israel was in fulfillment of prophecy. God, this argument goes, has unfulfilled promises made to the Jews. This is not true. The founding of Israel was, as all things are, ordained by God. He wasn't surprised by the development. But it does not complete any outstanding biblical prophecy. As for any unconditional promises remaining unfulfilled: that's the empty set. There were many promises that God made with the condition of obedience—those promises are null and void. But the unconditional promises were satisfied:

43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. 45 Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. (Joshua 21:43-45)

Extreme pro-Israel Christians such as John Hagee, author of the hideous In Defense of Israel (which I may review at a later date) are simply and seriously mistaken. He claims that the bible calls Christians to do much more than pray for the state of Israel. He is right and wrong—the bible does call us to do much more, it calls us to proselytize, i.e., preach the gospel, to the Jews. He is wrong because proselytizing the Jews is the one thing he does not demand of his followers. He prefers to stand side-by-side with the political leadership of Israel to further Israel's political agenda. As stated earlier, this may be a defensible position based on your political views. But Hagee, and many other Christians, falsely claim the bible as their mandate.

Back to the question of anti-Semitism. Have you ever actually read what Paul (who everyone knows loved the Jews and even offered his own salvation if they could be saved) had to write about unconverted Jews? After being repeatedly attacked on his missionary journeys, Paul wrote:

 13And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. 14For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, 15who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men 16in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. (1 Th. 2:13-16)

By any modern sensitivities—these words taken from scripture (and not out of context) would be considered anti-Semitic. Paul is literally calling the Jews "Christ killers."

(Aside: the wrath of God is no doubt reference to the impending end of the Jewish age in AD 70, when the Temple was desecrated and destroyed, over a million Jews killed, many enslaved, the rest mostly scattered—the end of Israel and of the sacrificial system. In my opinion, that was the last time you have any prophecy about God's wrath on a political entity—and it denoted the end of the transition period between the old and the new. God, according to my reading of scripture, no longer deals with nations but rather with those in his church and those not.)

Some extremely pro-Israel Christians also argue that taking the position that Jews cannot be saved without accepting Christ is also anti-Semitic. Well, it is not anti-Semitic; it is the proper position for Christians to take; although there is something important to remember.

What I mean is this: as people we can base our judgment only on the visible fruits of others. We are called to treat as Christians those proclaim acceptance of the power of Christ's shed blood to pay for their sins. And we are called to treat anyone who doesn't as an unbeliever. Because of our inability to do anything else, God has told us: pay attention to the externals and act accordingly—but the actual Book of Life is off limits. We will not bat a thousand using this approach.

Scripture, read carefully, tells us that nobody comes to the Father except by the Son. But while this is obviously strongly correlated with those who can present a testimony, in truth it is slightly different. Coming by the Son means presenting oneself before the Father cloaked in the righteousness of Christ. Could Christ offer the protection of His righteousness to some who don't follow the normative route to salvation? Who am I to say no? God will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. I am instructed, in Matthew 7, to treat those who deny Christ as unbelievers and those who don't (and back up their claim with deeds) as believers. But conspicuously absent from that instruction is a guarantee that by this methodology I'll perfectly distinguish the saved from the lost.

With infants and the mentally handicapped we understand this intuitively. We all are Calvinists when it comes to dead babies. While it doesn't affect my actions toward them in any way, I have the same feeling about Jews, Moslems, (both of which should be proselytized) and the millions who never hear the gospel. If they don't convert, I don't expect that they are saved, and I don't treat them as if they are saved, but I do hold out a hope for any individual that in God's sovereign plan he will have mercy upon them, and I do remember that I have no say whatsoever when it comes to the question of who gets covered by the righteousness of Christ.